It’s fair to say that over the last few years, in the underground rock scene, that there is a renaissance underway; an undercurrent that is undeniably gathering an increasing tangible momentum.
Clear evidence of this is the soaring, heart-felt majesty that is Ashen Reach’s debut long-player ‘Homecoming’.
A trio of well received singles have, over the course of the previous year, served to give a degree of notice of what is about to be unleashed upon the unsuspecting.
This is a multifaceted, many layered aural delight that eminates directly from within the collective soul of this hard rocking Liverpudlian quintet.
‘Homecoming’ gets off the mark in style with ‘Fighting For My Life’ which has elements of NWOBHM thrown into the melting pot swirling around with shades of nu-metal.
From vocalist Kyle Martyn Stanley opening line ‘I’m a slave to my own mind’ through to lead guitarist Paddy Cummins’ outro via the hook of a chorus ‘Fight, Fight, Fight’ the listener is left in no doubt of the combined quality on offer here.
Latest single ‘Epiphany’ follows with a catchy rhythm alloyed with drummer Jess Stanley’s solid beat that borders on tribal in parts. This atmospheric track shows a gentler side to Ashen Reach before Cummins concludes affairs with some infectious fretwork.
The wondrously abrasive intro of ‘Tear It Down’, the album’s second single, soon phases into Stanley’s haunting vocals before the quintet let loose with an anthemic, rousing chorus to unify; ‘Rise above and make a stand’ surely a rallying call. This is certain to be a stand-out track live; a sure-fire crowd pleaser.
A knockout blow is delivered by the punching intial riffs of ‘Heir To The Throne’ with Stanley snarling ‘You had it all in the palm of your hand’ before the lofty, imperious chorus kicks in. Alternating back and forth a connecting feature is the rumbling bass-lines of Mike McCarroll wrapped around the rythmic six-stringing of Joe O’Sullivan.
The opening minute of ‘Alive Again’ jars the listener neatly in the ribs with an unexpected turn; it’s folk-metal intro replete with monastical harmonies giving insight to the band’s combined diversity before they dive headlong into darker, heavier realms that are inhabited by screaming and rasping demonic entities.
The haunting, skin-crawling intro of ‘Prey’, the first single off ‘Homecoming’, leads into an uncomfortable exploration of the twisted mindset – ‘An apex predator stalking his prey’ – not traditional fare for a single but to their credit Ashen Reach pull it off successfully with much considered reflection and insightful observation.
Not in the slightest bit afraid to mix it up Ashen Reach interject proceedings with the short, but ever so melancholically bittersweet, instrumental ‘Ether’ that has more than shades of Dave Gilmour and Brian May at their finest within. At less than two minutes it drifts gently into the balladic ‘Here I Go’ that has the potential of being lauded in anthemic terms with it’s emotionally drenched feel.
‘Hole In The Sky’ is a track that spreads it’s wings soaring quite marvelously; alternating beautifully between gentle and heavier moods; a sort of progressive metal that the likes of AR’s brothers in arms Ethyrfield are currently experimenting with.
‘Broken Column’ is an all-out metallic monster that wouldn’t be out of place upon Kill The Lights debut ‘The Sinner’; such is the multifarious nature gathered within.
Album-closer and title-track ‘Homecoming’ picks up the thread of ‘Hole In The Sky’ with an expansive Maiden-esque influenced prog-metal epic weighing in at near nine minutes.
What seemed unlikely not that long ago is now becoming the possible; time for the old guard to step aside to permit the new to embrace the musical inheritance that they seek.
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Review by Gary Spiller for MPM